Tutti al Mare:
Italian beaches – be them public or private, sandy stretches or rocky coves – are one of a kind. Not just because they’re so often blessed with scenic surroundings, azure blue waters, and Campari Spritzes come aperitivo time (you’ll find those at any beach shack, chic club or sea facing hotel bar.
What makes them stand out is the fact that they boast their very own stylebook and customs, unspoken rules and folkloristic figures.
To be on a beach in Italy – whether it’s in Tuscany, a pretty island like Ischia or along the lesser-known Lazio coast – means entering a parallel universe where carefree living reigns supreme and Italian ingeniousness shines bright.
Ready to delve into the staples of the Italian beach scene? Continue reading below, and take some notes for next time you’re on vacation on our shores. You’ll fit right in.
La Settimana Enigmistica
La Settimana Enigmistica is to Italian beachgoers what Vogue is to the international fashion set: an essential read. A word puzzle and crossword magazine that’s been around since 1932, you’ll see this thin, black-and-white weekly laying around under ombrelloni and at beach bars, with half of its pages completed and the other half left to bake under the sun. It’s a hit among people of a certain age (i.e.: our mums) but flip its pages – which also contain vocabulary tests, cartoons, and a variety of other linguistic brain-teasers – and chances are you, too, will be hooked in no time.
The ombrellone is the lead character of a beach day a l’italiana. Private establishments will have them open and ready the moment you arrive to lay your towel, while public beaches require a little bit more manual labour on your end – which must be endured, because no holiday time is complete without this shade-bestowing object.
Planting it requires some serious skills: take notice of the men around you (it’s generally men) who take it upon themselves to make the perfect hole for their ombrelloni, digging into the sand with their bare hands or, sometimes, a shovel they bought specifically for the purpose. They’ll approach the task with scientific precision, measuring shade inclinations and wind speed, though some will still end up with a wonky setup.
Regardless, the ombrellone is king – even more so if quietly stylish and a little retro, like those from Mezzatorre .
Yes, the beach is for reading, chilling, and sunbathing. But Italians also like to stay active, which is why a game of racchettoni (beach rackets) is a must during any seaside time in the country. Anyone can play – couples, friends, kids, families, you name it – and play they do: from early morning to late afternoons, the sound of balls being hit and forth is as ubiquitous as the gentle crushing of waves on many beaches from north to south.
Want a set of racchettoni that makes you look like a pro? Go for the Battistoni beach tennis rackets. They’re the ultimate summer accessory.
Il Grattacheccaro (or the Cocco Man)
(or the Cocco Man)
You’re on the beach and you’re feeling a little peckish. You’d like something refreshing, but the idea of walking to the nearest bar feels like a terrible chore given the heat (even when said bar is only 20 metres away from you). Then, out of nowhere, the grattacheccaro (a man making grattachecca, aka hand-shaved iced flavoured with syrup) lands in your field of vision. And, suddenly, the day is saved.
Grattacheccari are a staple of beaches in central and southern Italy, where you’ll see them wheeling their carts up and down the shoreline, ready to whip up slushies in myriad different flavours. The Cocco Man – a man selling fresh coconut slices – is an equally common figure of the country’s beach folklore, and another hero when it comes to doling out fresh snacks. His opening – and only – line? ‘Cocco fresco!’
The Bottomless Bag and the Invicta Backpack
A full day at the beach requires some planning, and Italians are masters of that. You’ve got to have some snacks, in case you get hungry. A book, for a little alone time. Sunscreen to protect you, sunnies to look cool, and maybe a straw hat to keep the heat away. Also, headphones for music, more snacks for the kids, La Settimana Enigmistica for mum (and yourself), and maybe some lipstick, if you’re going for aperitivo afterwards.
Enter the bottomless bag: a tote so spacious you can almost fit your entire life in it – and an accessory that only really works during summer. Italian women always have the best ones, like the ISSIMO straw tote bag, which combines substance and style with effortless panache.
Prefer a backpack? Take a cue from the Italians (again) and opt for their favourite backpack brand, Invicta. Even better, go for these compact and stylish striped mini sacs in black or yellow. Deceptively small, they can hold all your essentials for a sunny day.